I’ve heard about strength circuits and calistenics (sp?) on this board, and a few others ( i have heard they are good for developing strength, speed and flexibility ) but i dont dont understand what they are? are they bodyweight circuits? I am a rower and i do 2 full body weight workouts a week - monday and friday - and I think i could add a ‘circuit’ in on wednesdays. Could anyone give me a basic strength and felxibilty circuit I could do to enhance my rowing (or general strength) performance?


BTW - this is my first post

List the duration/distance of the event in which you compete.

What is your:
training experience
bodyfat %
max chin ups/pull ups
general strength levels for sport specific lifts

Illustrate what your current workouts look like.

List your weaknesses.


During winter training we do testing for 2k’s and 6k’s. In spring and summer season everything is based around 2k races. its during the offseason and I have access to my friend’s single twice a week for technical rows, and an ergometer (indoor rowing machine). my scheudle is like this…

(M) am - speed and power interval work on erg + sport specific weight routine
[ squats, leg press, bench pulls, cleans, seated cable rows + core ]

  pm - sprints (10 x 50m sprints)

(T) am - Long distance erg work ( upwards of 60 minutes)

  pm - 3-5 mile run

(W) am - technical row on the water + core

  pm - sprints ( could put circuit training here )

(Th) am - Long Distance erg work ( upwards of 60 minutes)

   pm - 3-5 mile run

(F) am - speed and power erg work + weights + core
pm - sprints or technical row

(S) am - 3-5 mile run + 30 minutes swim
pm - could put another circuit in here

(Su) off

My diet is high in protein, high in carbs (mostly complex) , and moderate (good) fats.

My core routine is : weighted incline crunches, hanging knee raises, leg kicks, and hyperextensions.

I am currently using whey protein after rowing and weight workouts.

age - 15
training experience - 1.5 yrs
height - 5’5" (short for a rower)
weight - 125 (lightweight cut off is 145, so i have plenty of room)
bodyfat % - never been tested, i imagine 15 or 16%
max chin ups/pull ups - 4
general strength levels for sport specific lifts

max squat - never maxed out, can do 145lbsx5
max bench pull - 100lbs x 3
cleans - 85lbs x 3 (still getting technique right)

weaknesses … shorter and lighter than other crew mates - cannot produce as much power and strength. 2k erg time needs improvement. technique needs a little bit of work.

strengths … hard worker, perseveres (sp?) , decently strong for my wieght (in boat, not so much in weight room)

in summary, rowing is a mix of power and endurance. A little more to the endurance side. I have been advised by many experienced rowers and coaches that the best weight routine is training for strength and under doing 5x5. Endurance is produced during rowing practice, strength in the weight room. My 2k times are not good, luckily I have until March to work on it and keep improving. I do 2k erg tests every 4-5 weeks.

what are the benefits of circuit training? can they be done at home? do they help for speed? endurance? power?

if you could give me a good routine, i would greatly appreciate it.

thanks alot

I agree that you would be best served by engaging in event specific endurance work (eg rowing)

What type of running are you doing on your 3-5m runs. I would question the efficacy of this much running for a rower, despite the arguement for general conditioning. Running, for a rower, is general conditioning, not specific. And as far as a cost/benefit analysis is concerned, the overuse/impact related injuries associated with middle distance running would render it not the most optimal means of conditioning in my opinion.

Your relative strength (pulling/chins) must be dramatically increased. At your bodyweight, and height (assuming you don’t have exceedingly long arms) you should be able to perform bodyweight chinups/pullups in the upper 20-30 rep range.

I am 6’1" 240lbs, and train WSB style powerlifting, and I am able to perform bodyweight pullups in the mid 20 repetition range. However, I have also been lifting weights longer than you have been alive.

I would recommend that you drop cleans in favor of lifts that will increase your relative strength in chin ups/pull ups. I would also recommend that you drop leg presses in favor of step ups, lunges, as you are already performing squats.

The benefits of circuit training, assuming that it is performed sport specifically, are yielded more on the conditioning end of the spectrum.

As your weakness lies, in my opinion, in relative strength I recommend that you prioritize the development of this quality above all else.

I have had my athletes who require excessive strength in chinning/pullups utilize ME and DE in all kinds of chin up and pull up variations with great success.

All in all, bag the circuit idea and replace it with a training protocol which will develop your relative strength levels, both in upper body pulling lifts and the squat/posterior chain.

I would encourage you to perform chin ups/pull ups, squats, rows as your primary strength building lifts with an emphasis on back extensions/GM’s/DL’s as auxillary work as the importance of strength in spinal extension (for a rower) must not be underestimated…

As far as constructing a detailed sport specific program is concerned, feel free to email me at


Yes I admint that the running needs to be changed up. It is usually a steady state, at first I thought of it to help build general endurance … but I’ve realized that sport specific (rowing) is better in this case. What do you suggest i do to the running? make it interval style? run farther? shorter?

As for general strength … yes my relative strength and back strength need work. Do you reccomend I do three sets to failure? I’m aiming towards doing 10+ by around January, so I have something to work at. On a different board somone advised me not to just do pulling movements with my upperbody (even though its sport specific) because something about CNS and my body will only be used to pulling not pushing? also what does ME and DE mean?

thanks alot

As for endurance I think longer sprints as repeats are best…in fact i just read a tid bit on a study(ill post the link later) where VO2 max and endurance was increased an inordinate amount. Something like 25 min to reach 80% of VO2 max up to 51min to reach 80% of VO2 max i think…I’ll post the link the but the workout consisted of wingate sprints…here it is

  1. Topic: Sprint Intervals and Muscle Adaptations
    Authors: Kirsten Burgomaster and colleagues from McMaster University
    Abstract #: 0152

New research is showing that endurance performance can be dramatically improved with very high intensity anaerobic work. In a previous study from this group, six bouts of very high intensity interval sprinting (4-7 Wingate sprints per session) conducted over two weeks (three times per week for two weeks) improved time to exhaustion at 80% of VO2 max by an almost unbelievable amount (baseline time to exhaustion = 25 minutes; post training time to exhaustion = 51 minutes).

In this study, the same researchers duplicated the prior training protocol and this time measured both metabolic adaptations and changes in time trial performance. In eight men, high intensity sprint training improved resting muscle glycogen by 53%, improved maximal activity of several aerobic and anaerobic enzymes, reduced the amount of lactic acid produced during exercise and improved time trial performance (+10.4%) and average power produced (+25W) during the time trial.

If you’ve ever done a Wingate, you’ll understand just how brutal this protocol is. However, this kind of hard work pays off with some unbelievable performance gains.

Just an idea for your general conditioning so you’re not over doing it rowing…

Although your sport demands more strength and conditioning of the ‘pulling muscles’ of the upper body, you must absolutely incorporate a certain volume of ‘pressing’ lifts in order to maintain structural balance, specifically about the shoulder girdle.

ME/DE refers to the maximum effort/dynamic effort methods respectively as defined by Zatsiorsky in Science and Practice of Strength Training.


Here you go ELC-Rower. Everything you need at this link.